Issues in Progress

Faculty Council

At the Feb. 18 Council meeting, Provost Billy Frye concluded a series of discussions begun last fall on the University strategic plan that Frye is preparing. Frye and Council members discussed the final element being considered in the preparation of the plan: advancing Emory's external relationships.
Frye said that a thoughtful consideration of Emory's external relationships is crucial because so many people in American academia "are still holding on to the image of [colleges and universities] as being very insular."
The area that sparked the most discussion was the question of whether Emory should be more deliberate about promoting the work of its public scholars in an effort to share knowledge more directly with the public. "There is often a great deal of ambivalence about whether that kind of work is appropriate [for a university to promote]," Frye said.
Frye wondered whether the School of Medicine's popular new community education program, called Mini-Medical School, could be used as a model by other schools and programs to make their work more accessible to the public.
Nanette Wenger expressed strong support for the idea, particularly its potential in the areas of law and business. Wenger said that academia must ask itself whether sharing information directly with the public constitutes a new kind of scholarship distinct from traditional scholarship, in which scholars share information with colleagues in their particular guild. "Most universities and tenure and promotions committees have traditionally looked down at it," Wenger said.
"If universities don't share what they do in a way that the public can understand," said Harriet King, "the public will cease to support universities."
Rebecca Chopp agreed. "The public is already demanding this of universities, that they stop living in this cocoon of isolation," she said.
Randall Strahan brought up the importance of faculty being willing and able to interact effectively with the news media as a crucial step in sharing Emory's work with the public. Sidney Perkowitz agreed and raised the possibility of Emory's sponsoring an annual seminar at the Conference Center/Hotel for journalists covering higher education. Perkowitz also stressed the importance of faculty teaching students to communicate effectively about their work, including dealing with the media.
Council President Luke Johnson said he hopes the University will continue to support its most active and visible public scholars and find ways of encouraging other scholars to share their work more broadly.
Prior to the strategic plan discussion, Nanette Wenger, chair of the Faculty Life Course Committee, gave a preliminary report on her committee's work. The report outlined three recommendations:
· Develop a research proposal for a study of Emory faculty that would address questions of: how competing pressures of academic life have changed in the past few decades and whether those changes vary across the faculty life cycle; how faculty demographics have changed over time; and how faculty assess the internal and external resources for improving their productivity.
· Create a subcommittee of the Council to study the potential expanded role of emeritus faculty, including questions concerning the types of scholarly activities faculty approaching retirement age would like to pursue after retirement; the legal ramifications of retired faculty remaining active in University life while still receiving the benefits of retirement (TIAA/CREF support, etc.); how deans and department chairs view the potential role of emeritus faculty and whether they would negotiate the specifics of such roles prior to retirement; and how the issue is viewed by active faculty members.
· Further address the issues of attaining academic excellence, balancing teaching and research and fostering interdisciplinary activities by: asking faculty what facilities and resources the University can make to improve the infrastructure for faculty life and determining whether the choices articulated vary with faculty level; and forming a multigenerational faculty committee to define a "wish list" for University investment in the infrastructure that is designed specifically to enhance faculty productivity.
Both Frye and Johnson recommended tabling discussion and action on the proposal until it is presented to the deans and they have an opportunity to react. Frye said that seeking the input of the deans up front will help avoid any redundant efforts in other parts of the University. Johnson asked Wenger and her committee to present a more detailed report, along with reaction from the deans, at the Council's April meeting.
In other business, Mel Lockhart, vice provost for academic enrollment and planning, gave an overview of the 1997-98 general and educational budget, which was recently approved by the Board of Trustees. Full coverage of the budget will appear in the March 3 edition of Emory Report.

-Dan Treadaway

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